Monday, May 28, 2018

The Right Stuff

I love biscuits and gravy. As far as I’m concerned, it is the best breakfast ever. A few weeks ago, I pulled down the canister of Bisquick and made biscuits that didn’t raise. “The Bisquick is too old,” I told my husband. Nevertheless, we poured sausage gravy on top and ate them anyway.

After I bought a new box of Bisquick, I made a batch of tasty biscuits that didn’t require gravy to make them edible. Strangely, the next batch was hard and heavy. I grumbled and threatened to buy canned biscuits. Just as we finished eating, Harold said, “You have that new box of Bisquick,” and he pointed at the small box nestled between the cereal canisters.

“No wonder they were a flop! I didn’t use the right stuff.” I had forgotten that I hadn’t put the new Bisquick in the canister. No matter what we do, if we don’t use the right stuff, we don’t get optimal results.

I made good biscuits again Monday. Normally, on Memorial Day, I’d be rushing to make it to the ceremony at the Veterans Cemetery in Higginsville, but between the oppressive heat and road construction, my sister-in-law Ginger and I went Sunday to place flowers in front of Jim’s resting place. An unexpected advantage of being at home was that my son dropped by for a visit and joined us for biscuits and gravy. I was glad I’d used the right stuff!

When Jim joined the U.S. Army, he showed that he had the right stuff. He fulfilled his obligation as a citizen by serving a tour of duty in Vietnam. Although he didn’t agree with the war, he loved his country. The war changed his life. Between PTSD, a neck injury, and exposure to Agent Orange, he lived with chronic physical and mental pain until his death from dementia.

On Memorial Day, we think of the people who sacrificed for our freedom. We think about the soldiers who died and those who died inside. We honor those who had the right stuff to risk life and life altering injury to fight for the United States of America. We place our hands on our hearts and pledge allegiance to the flag.

The original pledge of 1892 was recited as “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands: One Nation indivisible with Liberty and Justice for all.” With these twenty-three words, Americans pledged that we would not be divided and that we wanted liberty and justice for everyone.

Later, of course, “my flag” was changed to “the flag of the United States of America.” The U.S. was a land of immigrants, and this change was to clarify the pledge was to the U.S. flag. The last change in 1954 was to add “under God.”

A lot has been said lately about respecting the flag, but we disrespect it in many ways without a second thought, or being aware that we’ve done so. The flag is not to be used for advertising, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes that are for temporary use and discarded. No part of the flag is to be used in a costume or athletic uniform.

It is important to think about the right stuff that goes into being an American. The right stuff begins on the inside and manifests itself in how we treat others. Anything less and we disrespect the flag and those who risked everything to protect our freedoms.

On Memorial Day, we think about the sacrifices that make this the country it is, but it’s our everyday behavior that makes that sacrifice worthwhile.    

Copyright © May 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I stopped by Arby’s one night last week and ordered the usual: regular roast beef, turkey ranch & bacon sandwich, and curly fries. “One Arby’s sauce. That’s it,” I said to indicate I didn’t want any drinks. He read the order back to me and at the end he said, “a root beer.”

I wasn’t sure what I’d said that he interpreted as “root beer” but I had to laugh. It just struck me as funny that he heard something that I hadn’t said at all.

After I got home, I saw a graphic on Facebook that said, “Yanny or Laurel” which do you hear? Well, I gave it a listen and didn’t hear either word. I heard “Yammy.” Later, I saw two other people who heard “Yammy.”

“I guess we march to the sound of a different drum,” I wrote beneath the original post. Later, I read an explanation—it depends on which tones an individual hears best, the speakers on your electronic devise, and the acoustics of the room. As an experiment, I had my husband listen to the special word. Both of us were listening at the same time. He heard “laurel.” I heard “Yammy.”

To me this experiment explains a lot. Is this the reason that people hear completely different things? For example, you listen to a speech. One person thinks it’s great and another person hears the flaws. One person hears a profound statement, and another hears nonsense. Okay, so this may not have to do with one person hearing “yanny” and another hearing “laurel,” but in another way it is similar. How we perceive speech is as individual as each person who is listening.

This one word may provide some insight into how a person with dementia might hear something totally different from the words we say to them. Think about it. If two people can listen to the same sound, but hear different words, how much more confusing would the sound of words be to a person with a disease that affects his brain?

Communicating with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s is challenging. Because words may become difficult, tone of voice and body language are vital to good communication with a loved one.

Although disputed by some, Albert Mehrabian’s study of communication is sometimes called the “rule of seven.” His study indicated that only seven percent of communication is verbal, while fifty-five percent is body language, and thirty-eight percent is tone of voice.

Regardless of whether you really believe the rule of seven in normal communications, I would agree that it certainly applies to a person with dementia. When words begin to fail, other forms of communication are essential so that the person understands you. Tone of voice and facial expressions convey your thoughts and emotions more effectively than words alone.

Hearing a mechanical voice say this special word could be a breakthrough in the art of communication if we allow it to be. Some people say the argument is “silly,” and I’ll have to agree to get in a heated argument over how the word sounds to you is silly. It can be a valuable reminder that people don’t always hear exactly what we say even accounting for those who are hard of hearing, or have selective hearing. Even at seven percent, verbal communication is overrated if your loved one has dementia.

Copyright © May 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Unexpected and Unexplained

I began an organized effort to clear my calendar several months ago, but I’m yet to reap the benefits of any hours gained. I had plans to spend some of that extra time working on Jim’s memoir and, of course, the Walk to End Alzheimer’s will be here before we know it!

I’ve been busy lately with updating a website for the change of officers in Sedalia Business Women. I also took photos at the installation and completed a photo book for the outgoing president. It seems I’ve barely had time to breathe for trying to get everything finished.

Our incoming president, Donna, was president year before last, but her husband became ill and passed away while she was serving her term. She missed a lot of meetings and felt like she had not had time to enjoy her time as president.

Usually, installation is pretty straight forward, but somehow the menu was mixed up. Instead of the chicken and veggies we were expecting, we had a buffet of hamburgers, potato salad, and basically, a picnic setup. After a talk with the chef, wait staff rushed around and added grilled chicken and vegetables. It was unexpected, but tasty just the same.

Other meetings were going on and the wait staff rushed past us with platters of great smelling food on their way to other rooms. We stepped out of their way and finally, the traffic slowed down. After our meal, installation of officers began with a candlelight ceremony.

As the officers stood there holding their candles, I stepped close to the buffet table to snap a few photos. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man standing beside me. I figured he was waiting patiently for me to take my photo, so I snapped a few shots and lowered my camera. I turned to give him the go-ahead, but to my surprise no one was there. So to the unexpected, we add the unexplained.

I found out many years ago, that not everything that happens in life can be explained, and that sometimes things happen that are downright creepy. My grandkids used to want me to tell them some of the stories of my experiences with the unexplained at bedtime, until my granddaughter would say, “Grandma Linda, you are creeping me out!”

Some of the unexplained isn’t creepy at all. Sometimes, it can be comforting, or a message. I’ve noticed these experiences happen during times of change. Shortly after Jim and I moved into our mobile home, Jim was working in the garden and I was planting flowers. While my back was turned, Jim saw his uncle that had passed away years before. Jim said it wasn’t a ghost—it was his uncle standing there beside him. His uncle said, “Jim, you need to sharpen your hoe.” Now, wouldn’t you think any message from the beyond would be profound? From the shocked look on Jim’s face, I knew he told the truth. When they worked in the fields together, Jim said his uncle often told him to sharpen his hoe. 

Some people believe they have a guardian angel to protect, guide, and comfort them in times of trouble, or in times of change. Whether we believe in angels watching over us, or just leave the unexplained, unexplained is an individual choice.

After the candlelight ceremony, Donna gave her acceptance speech and announced her theme, “Guardians of the Future.” She broke down when she talked about her husband and how everyone had rallied to keep the club going so that she could be with him.

As far as the man I saw at installation, I have an idea who he might have been and why he was there. I don’t think he was there for me, or for me to see. I don’t think he even intended to be seen; he was merely offering a comforting presence during a time of change.

Copyright © May 2018 by L.S. Fisher

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Visit with Congresswoman Hartzler

When I looked at this week on my calendar, it seemed like it had been attacked by a magic marker. Some days had as many as three events with only Wednesday sitting in the middle of the week without a single notation.

Monday was a red-letter day on my calendar because that was the day we local Alzheimer’s advocates were meeting with Congresswoman Hartzler. Our meeting was scheduled for 10:30 at the Sedalia Fire Station. Jamie, a firefighter and a Walk committee member, and I decided to rearrange the room so that it was more conducive to conversation. We called it a square, round table setting.

The Congresswoman arrived on schedule, and after introductions, we sat down to talk about research funding and the BOLD Infrastructure for  Alzheimer’s Act.

As Congresswoman Hartzler’s ambassador, I thanked her for her support of Alzheimer’s research. In the years I’ve traveled to D.C., I’ve seen funding increase from $400 million to more than $1 billion. The professional budget calls for $2 billion to reach our goal of a cure or effective treatment by 2025. We are asking for an increase of $425 million for fiscal year 2019.

We talked about how Alzheimer’s is a public health threat because the burden is large—five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s is a public health issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would collect data on cognitive decline and lead the nations efforts to improve quality of life for those with the disease and reduce the costs associated with it.

Alzheimer’s affects not only the person with the disease, but also affects the caregiver. Several caregivers shared their stories. My mom said, “I saw how stressed Linda was…every day. She was working and taking care of Jim. She couldn’t sleep because Jim would wander off in the night.”

Another advocate shared how her grandfather’s personality changed and how things he said to her grandmother stayed with her even after he passed away. Other caregivers told of instances where the person with the disease outlived the caregiver.

We need to use a BOLD approach to end Alzheimer’s! The BOLD Act establishes Alzheimer’s Centers of Excellence; provides funding to state, local, and tribal public health departments to promote early diagnosis; and increases collection and reporting of data on cognitive decline. As our time drew to a close, I made the “ask.” Congresswoman Hartzler said she would study BOLD (HR 4256) and give consideration to lending her support. She praised our handouts and thanked us for keeping her informed about our legislation. 

We had forty-five minutes with the Congresswoman. As she was leaving, she hugged my ninety-one-year-old mother and said, “When I grow up, I want to be you.”

Copyright © May 2018 by L.S. Fisher